Sunday, December 7, 2008

Hark, the Voice of One That Crieth

Another recurring theme of Advent is the coming of the promised reign of God, foretold by the Old Testament prophets. Everything will be all right! In many churches today the opening verses of Isaiah 40 were read, along with their recurrence in the opening verses of the book of Mark.

Comfort, comfort ye my people,
Speak ye peace, thus saith our God;
Comfort those who sit in sadness,
Mourning ’neath their sorrow’s load;
Speak ye to Jerusalem
Of the peace that waits for them;
Tell her that her sins I cover,
And her warfare now is over.

Hark, the voice of one that crieth
In the desert far and near,
Calling all to true repentance,
Since the reign of God is here.
O that warning cry obey!
Now prepare for God a way!
Let the valleys rise in meeting,
And the hills bow down in greeting.

Make ye straight what long was crooked,
Make the rougher places plain:
Let your hearts be true and humble,
As befits this holy reign,
For the glory of our God
Now o’er earth is shed abroad,
And all flesh shall see the token
That God's word is never broken.

Johann Olearius, 1671; tr. Catherine Winkworth, 1842; alt.
Tune: PSALM 42 (
Louis Bourgeois, 1551

This paraphrase of the beginning of Isaiah 40 was written by.Johann Olearius and later translated by Catherine Winkworth. It was originally written to commemorate the feast day of Saint John the Baptist (June 24) but is generally used in Advent now. Olearius published an important Lutheran hymnal, Geistliche Singe-Kunst (1671) with over 1200 hymns, nearly one-quarter of which were written by him.

The tune has several different names in different hymnals but it was originally composed by Louis Bourgeois to accompany a version of Psalm 42.

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